When we hear the term ‘hostile work environment,’ we may just think of workplaces with demanding bosses or unfriendly coworkers. The Society for Human Resource Management also finds that many employees quit their job due to lack of opportunities for growth. While all of these factors may make for an unpleasant work experience, they may not be enough to file a hostile work environment claim against your company.
Legally speaking, a hostile work environment is a lot more than just having an unsupportive boss or not getting a promotion. Under the Civil Rights Act, a hostile work environment claim is essentially a claim of workplace discrimination in that an employee’s rights have been violated. In other words, the actions of your boss or coworkers must have been discriminatory in nature and prevented you from doing your job. The discrimination that occurred must have been based on your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, color, national origin, age, gender, or other protected classification.
Behaviors that are simply rude or annoying do not generally qualify for a hostile work environment claim. However, behaviors such as e-mailing sexually explicit photos or other offensive pictures, or making offensive comments or jokes, may be enough to support a hostile environment claim.
Additionally, the offensive behaviors must be pervasive, in that they occur repeatedly over a period of time. The behaviors also must be severe, in that they caused a serious disruption in your work or prevents you from progressing in your career.
Employers can be liable for their employees’ creation of a hostile work environment, particularly if they do not appropriately intervene or investigate any claims of discrimination or harassment. If you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, an employment law attorney in your area can help you file your claim.